Gratitude has become a hot word over the last decade. Oprah talks about it. The Huffington Post has a whole page devoted to it. And if you do a Google search on that one word, it pulls up over 79 million results. Gratitude is considered to be so miraculous that it is touted as the key to happiness.
As a result, we are given all kinds of approaches to learn how to be more grateful. We can create gratitude journals, and we can listen to guided gratitude meditations. There are even countless books on the subject. Unfortunately, the cerebral approaches to gratitude don't work for me. I am embarrassed to say that I've started about ten gratitude journals, and each of them hasn't gotten past two pages!
For me, and perhaps for many others, in order to benefit from a gratitude practice, we have to turn the concept of gratitude from a noun into a verb. We have to act on our feelings gratitude. Well, what does that mean in practical terms? The following are some ways that you can turn your gratitude practice into action:
Self-Care: Are you grateful to wake up every morning? Are you grateful to have a body which allows you to do all kinds of things? Then express that gratitude by taking care of your body! The act of eating nutritious food and exercising regularly is the way to show that you realize how lucky you are to have a body that is alive. Your body may not be perfect (whose is?), but by taking care of it, you express your gratitude for having a living body that allows you to wake up and experience another day.
Caring for Our Belongings: Are you grateful for your home? Are you grateful to have clothing and perhaps a vehicle? If so, show your gratitude by taking care of those things. Don't just leave your clothes on the floor. Hang them up neatly, and wash them properly. If you have an apartment, house or even just a room, show your appreciation for having a roof over your head by keeping your space clean and decorating it beautifully. Let's say you have a beat up old car. So what? You are blessed to have something to drive. So make sure it is always clean, both inside and out, and that it always has enough gas. Express your appreciation by taking good care of all the wonderful things that you have.
Caring for Our Family and Friends: If there are people in your life for whom you are grateful, do more than just think about how much you appreciate them. Say it! Better yet, do little things for them to show them how important they are to you. Believe it or not, little acts of kindness can have a large impact on another person. For example, every night my husband puts a fresh glass of water on my bedside table. That sounds like a small thing, doesn't it? However, it reinforces to me every day that he loves me and wants to take care of me. That small act makes me feel so special. So don't feel that you can't show your appreciation for someone because you don't have a million dollars. Even a glass of water can be so dear to another person.
Doing Our Best at Work: No job is perfect, but if your employer pays you and thereby allows you to provide for yourself and your family, you are lucky. Show your gratitude by doing the best job that you possibly can. The same holds true if you are a stay-at-home-parent. There are so many people who would love to be able to stay home full-time with their children. Show your gratitude for having the luxury to stay home with your kids by being the best possible full-time parent. Whether you work at a job or raise children, you are blessed and doing your best is the way to express how lucky you are.
When we act on our feelings of gratitude, the concept really comes alive. We aren't just mowing the lawn. We are cutting the grass because we are grateful to have a house and a yard. We aren't just doing laundry. We are grateful to have clothing, and we want to care for our clothes properly. We don't just have a spouse. We have someone who has made the commitment to be good to us for the rest of our lives, and we want to care for that person because we are just so, so grateful. The list goes on and on. So consider making gratitude a verb in your life today!